Monsters vs. Aliens (Blu-ray) Studio: DreamWorks Home Entertainment Rated: PG (Sci-fi actions, some crude humor and mild language) Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; French, Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, English SDH+ Time: 94 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 2009 Blu-Ray Release Date: September 29, 2009 Susan (Reese Witherspoon) is all excited about her wedding day and her pending nuptials to dreamy weatherman Derek (Paul Rudd). Right before the wedding, she is hit by a meteor and as she drags herself to the altar, Derek tells her she’s glowing… literally glowing green. This is soon followed by a growth spurt to a towering 49’ 11”. The government quickly swoops in and captures Susan then whisks her away to a secret government bunker. When she comes to, she meets General W. R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland) who explains to her she is one of five other monsters being kept hidden by the government. These five are half man/ half cockroach Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie), the sea creature-esque Missing Link (Will Arnett), the gelatinous B.O.B (Seth Rogen) and a 350-foot grub called Insectosaurus. An alien menace, led by the squid like Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson) needs what Susan’s got, namely a substance from the meteor called quantonium. Gallaxhar invades Earth and Monger dispatches his monsters to fight the invading alien menace. Our not-so-frightful monsters must work together to defeat Gallaxhar while Susan tries to cure her condition, finding her old life may not be all that great. Wally Wolodarsky, one of my favorite writers from The Simpsons, is one of the co-writers of the script and it is no surprise that brand of slapstick yet thoughtful humor makes its way into this movie. One of my biggest complaints about kid pictures, or more specifically, CG animated tales with monsters, aliens or anthropomorphic animals, is that the writers feel the need to constantly make the characters use the phrases of the day or utilize some hot pop song to show just how hip they are. This script uses almost none of that but instead pays homage to numerous past sci-fi flicks, such as E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and there’s even homage to Axel F. by Harold Faltermeyer. Meanwhile, it contains enough spunk and excitement for us to be interested by these characters and the plot. Gallaxhar turns out to be the star of the show becoming a worthy successor to Tim Burtons barking aliens in Mars Attacks! Wilson has a blast with the voice and the directors play his clones for laughs reminding me of numerous bits from Caddyshack and several Mel Brooks pictures. The main thing is that it’s funny, damn funny, and it rejuvenates my interest in the all-too-common CG animated films out these days. Movie: ***.5/***** Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment. The Blu-Ray disc is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. As I have said in my other reviews of other CG animated Blu-rays, this one looks great. The picture is absolutely pristine and clear with no dirt or noise in it. I noticed no compression artifacts, aliasing or edge enhancement. Color fidelity was excellent showing a wide array of colors in every scene. All of the close-ups of the various characters show more detail than has been previously seen in CG pictures: check out the pores on Susan’s face in the beginning of the movie and later on when we see the hair on Insectosaurus. The image shows good depth of field and black levels are excellent showing good detail and depth. Video: *****/***** Audio: The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI. I listened to the feature with the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track engaged. The audio mix itself is excellent providing a very active and accurate surround field. Information is constantly heard in the rears, and in the action scenes they blend in to provide a very convincing sound stage. Panning effects were also excellent making smooth transitions as the sound moved from channel to channel. Voices and effects come through crystal clear as there is no hiss or distortion noted. LFE’s engage during the action and music scenes, with the bass levels rumbling through the room. Audio: ****.5/***** Bonus Material: Trivia Track: this track features behind-the-scenes fun facts about the production. The pop-ups added a lot to my enjoyment of the movie as they point out the difficulty in creating certain scenes and drive home the point of how much work can go into these CG movies. Commentary with Producer Lisa Stewart and Directors Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon: the three turn in a fun and fast moving commentary discussing the entire production. I do wish they would have done a video commentary similar to the one done for Kung-Fu Panda, but this one is sufficient none the less. The Animators’ Corner: animators, the directors and others explain the thought behind the look of the feature in a pop-up window. We get interviews, storyboard to final film comparisons, CG development and a discussion about the movie in 3D and how great it is…except the 3D version is NOT included. Grrrrr…. Monstrous 3D and More teases us with what the disc could have been had we gotten the 3D version here. Instead, we get the short, B.O.B.’s Big Break in 3D (in HD, 13:19) and a rudimentary game, Paddle Ball, where you can play paddle ball to identify the monsters. The next section, Out-of-This-World 2D Fun gives us the 2D of the B.O.B short and a Karaoke Music Party, where you can sing along with the various characters for three different songs. There are three uncompleted Deleted Scenes (HD, 5:29 total), “Monger’s Plan”, “War Room Turns on Monsters”, and “If You Don’t Know That” which are basically storyboards and uncompleted animation strung together with the soundtrack added in or showing the actor reading his lines. Modern Monster Movie Making (HD, 17:18) is a standard EPK where the production crew and cast talk about how great the movie is. Again, we are told how exciting the 3D experience is, not that us home viewers would get to share in that fun. Tech of Monsters vs. Aliens (HD, 6:19) explains how the movie was done (in 3D, of course) and how the computer horsepower allows them to do more realistic characters. DreamWorks Animation Jukebox (HD) allows you to pick songs from several of your favorite DreamWorks animated titles. It then plays the song with accompanying animation from the feature. There is a very easy to find Easter Egg button that takes you to some trailers for new films, a new musical, some TV previews and a couple games. Bonus Material: ***.5/***** Conclusions: Had there been the 3D version on the disc as well, Monsters vs. Aliens would have got a highly recommended, but even without that, DreamWorks gives us a great looking and sounding feature with a decent set of extras.